Our PCS in the Tornado


As my husband and I raced across I-40 East in Oklahoma City, blackened skies trailed behind us and severe wind gusts engulfed us. The tornado was definitely coming. Winds picked up our loaded SUV and moved it across two lanes like a leaf-blower lifts dust. A few miles later, a car caught fire in front of us. A dust devil swirled across our windshield. This was not the PCS road trip that I had envisioned when we scheduled family visits from Seattle to California to Oklahoma.

This last leg of our trip – to our new installation in Texas – will be smack in the middle of a tornado, and it was severe.

Before this, we had total control of our move and were determined to turn the PCS monster on its head.

First, we scheduled the commencement of my spouse’s leave with our departure day and ensured that the other car and furniture were shipped a week earlier. We included extra “free” days for anything that could go wrong with out-processing. We even moved into temporary housing on base days before our trip to rest. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have a home on the other end or that our furniture would take 15 days to arrive once we secured housing. What mattered was the spirit and attitude we adopted, and the little things that we didn’t take for granted (that could turn any road trip into disaster).

Days leading up to our trip, I scheduled an oil change, a car wax and had AAA create a Triptik, which included detailed (hardcopy) routes with specific exits. They made our hotel reservations, found the best discounts and ensured our hotels were close to freeway entrances. We scheduled an average of 8-10 driving hours daily and included “short” trip days. We researched the dates and times of our favorite shows in each location so we didn’t miss season finales.

We had it all under control until nature intervened.

Within hours of watching the nearly two-mile-long, (EF4) twister touch down in Oklahoma City – we had retreated to the family’s safe-house. We waited for a tornado to hit Fort Smith, and for the sirens and lightening fireworks and thunder to dissipate.

We had lost control.

We couldn’t prepare for everything and that’s the nature of a PCS move – sometimes you have to just go with the flow.

We are safe now, but I’m heartbroken for those affected and the lives lost. Driving through the devastation to get back to the route that will take us to our new post will be difficult.

We don’t have a home yet and we’re currently stranded by flash flooding and booming thunderstorms. But we didn’t lose everything; we’re also starting over in a new home by choice. Within minutes, thousands of people in this region didn’t have that option.

A PCS with a few hidden problems pales in comparison. Sometimes letting go gives you more control.

Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro is a military journalist at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), WA. She writes for the Ranger, the Northwest Airlifter, Northwest Veterans and online magazines JBLM Singles and JBLM Spouses.

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